Borrego Sun - Since 1949

A Plan to Expand Services


Last updated 6/13/2023 at 11am

According to Betsy Knaak, “Several years from now Borrego Springs could have a campus of public facilities in the center of our town. With our Sheriff’s Office, County Park and our library on adjoining parcels, a new firehouse, clinic/wellness center, senior housing and associated services would complete a public facility campus that will be the focal point of our town.”

Knaak co-leads the Committee to Ensure Primary Care in Borrego Springs. The other co-leader, Bruce Kelley, PhD said “We have been working with key decision makers to develop this concept.”

The Committee includes other volunteers who are on the boards of most non-profit organizations in Borrego Springs – Charles Collum LVN, Jim Dion, Martha Deichler, Richard Fausel DO, Richard Helvig MD, Captain Jim Higbee, David Leibert, Terry Paulus, Rich Pinel, Harry Turner, Jim Wermers (advisor), Jim Wilson and Daniel Wright.

The transition of our fire district to County Fire/CAL FIRE and the transition of Borrego Health’s Clinic to DAP Health creates an opportunity to expand Borrego Springs’ health and safety services. The Wright family owns land west of and adjacent to the library.

Daniel Wright said, “Nancy and I are willing to donate parcels to the County and, possibly a non-profit, to transform the 22 acres we own into an ideal space for the campus of public facilities.”

The Wrights have created a plan for affordable senior housing to be on part of the 22 acres. And the Wrights support the idea of donating a parcel for the new firehouse and heliport and clinic/wellness center. They may also donate more of the parcel to create a multigenerational campus – by eventually moving our Senior Center, Resource Center and Child Day Care Center to the campus.

The new and most innovative part of this concept is to link the new firehouse to a clinic and wellness center. CAL FIRE Battalion Chief Salizzoni is managing the transition of County Fire/CAL FIRE to Borrego Springs. He has invited the Committee to participate in CAL FIRE’s facility planning process. So far, it appears that putting the new firehouse between Borrego Springs’ library and “church row” will improve response times and may obviate the need for a second firehouse.

The Heliport could also be relocated from Rams Hill to be proximate to the firehouse. That would reduce transfer times from ambulances to helicopters, which would shorten the number of minutes to get patients to an emergency room.

Several years from now, co-locating the new firehouse and clinic/wellness center could create opportunities to expand and improve primary care and other health-related and safety services in Borrego Springs.

For example:

After hours care is badly needed in Borrego Springs. CAL FIRE could provide sleeping quarters to primary providers (e.g., MDs, nurse practitioners, etc.) who commute from other areas to work in the clinic. CAL FIRE would exchange with the Clinic providers sleeping accommodations for on-call hours to back up its paramedics. That will allow the paramedics to provide more urgent care and many other primary care services when the clinic is closed.

A clinic co-located with the new firehouse will create new synergies that could provide better preventive, wellness and therapeutic care to residents. Our paramedics are excited about having better facilities in the firehouse to provide walk-in care and community paramedicine. If overloaded, the clinic will be able to off-load to the paramedics’ people who come in for first-aid care. And the clinic will have the paramedics following up on clinic patients in their homes.

The County cannot justify putting a Live Well Center in Borrego Springs, as it has in larger communities. We need mental health care & counseling, nutrition education, physical activity promotion, drug and alcohol abuse care, wellness counseling, etc. These are all needs that Live Well’s Community Health Assessment found to be big problems here and that their Community Enrichment Plan proposes to address. Live Well’s staff has told us they are willing to provide more services in Borrego Springs.

However, a facility is needed to deliver some of their services. The facility housing the clinic could also house Live Well, Aging and Independent Services and other public health services offered by the County. Having the wellness center in the same building as the clinic will make it more likely physicians will refer and more likely that residents will use the wellness and other services.

Economies of scale should also result from these synergies. With a more accessible location and more services available, patient volume should grow. Costs will be spread over more patient visits, so the clinic will be more viable financially and it will be more feasible to expand services. More staff will be needed, which will present employment opportunities to our residents. We are already raising funds to train local residents to be technicians.

In the future, we hope to support training of primary providers. With a modern facility, more patients and more back up it should be easier to recruit and retain physicians, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, nurses, etc.

Knaak concluded, “The Committee Ensure Primary Care in Borrego Springs sees the co-location of the firehouse and clinic as the anchor to the public center of our town and as a lever to launch these other services that anchor safety and health services to our residents. We are ready to do our part and hope residents will support this plan.”